Yoga Postures for Toning by Sue Fuller 

There are many positive reasons to practice yoga.  In addition to making you feel healthy, relaxed and full of vitality yoga will also tone and shape the entire body.

Yoga provides a resistance workout and requires no equipment just your own body weight. Yoga develops strength from the inside out, encouraging the deep muscles that provide support and stability to become stronger.  This forms a foundation for all physical activities allowing you to move safely with support.  Not only that, but posture is also greatly improved helping to maintain sound alignment which will have an extremely positive influence on day to day health and vitality.   

It is important to listen to your body and focus on basic fundamental postures to develop a solid foundation.  This enables you to safely move forwards without causing injury or applying any unnecessary strain to the body.

The following postures will help to tone and shape the body.  As you follow the postures work to breathe slowly and steadily through the nose.

Downward Facing Dog - Adho Mukha SvanasanaAdho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) with a shoulder press.

This posture will strengthen all of the muscles in the upper body whilst lengthening the hamstrings. 

Begin on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.  When you feel ready curl under your toes and on an exhalation unfold the legs working to push the floor away with your hands, so that you create a triangular shape with your body and the floor.  Hold this position whilst drawing your navel back towards your spine.

When you feel ready you can perform a shoulder press.  Inhale and bend your elbows to bring the top of your head towards the floor, straighten your arms as you exhale.  Maintain the triangle shape with your body keeping the hips high to target the shoulders.  Repeat this 8 or more times.

 

Forearm PlankForearm Plank

This posture will strengthen all of the core muscles.

Begin on lying on your front.  Bend your elbows and place the forearms to the ground so that the middle of each forearm is under each shoulder.   Spread your fingers and make sure that your middle finger is pointing straight forward.  Curl under your toes and draw your navel up towards your spine.  Push into your forearms and lift your body from the ground so that only your forearms and toes are on the ground.  Stay here for ten or more complete breaths whilst drawing your navel up towards your spine.

 

Virabhadrasana Two - Warrior 2Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2) with lunge

This posture will tone and strengthen the upper leg muscles.

Begin with the feet about one metre apart, lift your arms out level with your shoulders and turn the left foot in a little and the right foot out, bend your right knee, to form a right angle.  Turn your head to look to the right.

Adding a lunge will work the muscles a little harder.  On an inhalation straighten the right leg and as you exhale bend the right knee returning to the posture.  Repeat this movement for ten complete breaths drawing your navel back towards your spine and softening your shoulders away from your ears.  Work to maintain a long spine and energise the outside edge of the left foot.  Repeat on the other side.

 

Purvottanasana - Inclined PlanePurvottanasana (Inclined Plane)

This posture is great for the upper arms, the upper thighs and the hips.

Begin sitting with a straight spine and your legs extended.  Place your hands to the ground behind your hips with your fingertips pointing straight forward.  Push down into your hands and feet to lift your hips off the ground.  Point your toes, work to lift the hips as high as you comfortably can and look up keeping your neck in line with your spine.  Hold for eight or more complete breaths.

 

 

The Boat - Navasana - Yoga PostureNarvasana (Boat)

The boat will help strengthen the abdominal muscles.

Begin sitting on your bottom, bring your knees in towards your chest, hold onto the backs of your thighs and make sure that you draw up your lower abdominal muscles up to support your spine.  Now extend your arms forwards with the hands shoulder width apart and the palms facing each other.  Slowly begin to straighten your legs.  When starting this posture keep the knees bent so that your lower leg is parallel with the floor as you become stronger work to straighten the knees.  Hold for five complete breaths and repeat two more times.

 

Always complete your practice with a few relaxing postures such as Apanasana (the wind releasing pose).  To perform this posture, draw both knees in towards your chest whilst lying on your back.  After Apanasana allow the knees to fall to the right and then the left to provide a simple spinal twist.

Finally move into Savasana (lying on your back with your arms and legs extended). Remain in this posture for at least five minutes breathing slowly in and out through your nose, so that the body and mind can enjoy and benefit from a period of relaxation.

Sue Fuller is as leading yoga teacher and writer.  She is a course author for the British School of Yoga and the creator of the Yoga 2 Hear range or audio yoga classes.  Yoga 2 Hear have a range of over 60 yoga classes suitable for the absolute beginner right through to the advanced practitioner.  For more information please visit www.yoga2hear.co.uk or www.wellbeingworldonline.com.